Vitamin D and our beloved sun
Do I love the sun! I mean, I adore the sun. It’s such an integral part of my life that I simply can’t live without the sun. And therefore I have been living in the sun for over 15 years now. Already when I was a little Patrick, I was obsessed with palm trees and white sandy beaches so when I was old (and wise) enough, I exchanged my birth country (Holland) for sunnier places. I started off in Asia (Maldives, Thailand, Indonesia) and Egypt, and moved to Ibiza almost 7 years ago. Being in such sunny places vitamin D intake through sun exposure isn’t much of an issue. However many parts of the world are not as sunny as Asia and the Mediterranean, especially in winter, and thus a lack of vitamin D can easily occur.
As you may have noticed from all the press coverage in recent years, vitamin D is important for all of us. Even with regards to SARS-CoV-2, vitamin D has been in the news numerous times and preliminary studies suggest that those with a vitamin D deficiency is far more prevalent in patients with severe COVID–19 disease requiring ICU admission and thereby increased chances of mortality. Vitamin D directly related to a healthy immune system but many people don’t know it is also very important in many other important processes in our body. In 2014, a study among almost 30,000 Swedish women showed that those who avoided sun exposure were twice as likely to die over 20 years compared to those who spent significant time in sunlight. This doesn’t mean though that a lack of sunlight causes death, but it is associated with a higher death risk. It could mean only that people who are sick do not spend as much time in the sun.
There are many foods available that are fortified with vitamin D as well as natural products containing vitamin D (such as fish and eggs) but unfortunately our vitamin D needs are not met through diet alone. What we need is to expose our skin to sun light. The fairer skinned, the quicker the vitamin D synthesis happens. In laymen’s terms this means that the lighter your skin, the less time you will need to spend in the sun. And that is a good thing considering a lighter skin will burn much quicker which in turn increases the risk for skin cancer. And thus, the darker your skin the more time you will have to spend in the sun to produce enough vitamin D. Isn’t nature beautifully balanced? 😉 However, if you are dark skinned and you live in the ‘cold’ north, it is important to adjust your sun exposure to make sure you still get enough vitamin D.
For fair skinned people in summer time, all you need is a 2 to roughly 15 minutes of sun exposure a day depending on your geographical location. For some however, 15 minutes a day can cause sun burn so it’s wisest to stay out of the sun between 10.00 and 15.00. Do this three to four times a week and you should be fine.
Of course in winter time, it is hard for most people to get enough sun exposure which is why complementing with a quality vitamin D supplement is very important. Note that it is a supplement, not a replacement.
If you notice you get sick quite often in winter in spite of following a healthy lifestyle, it may be wise to get a blood test done for hydroxy vitamin D in January or February. If it is above 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL), you are normal and do not need supplementation. If it is below that, you may need to take vitamin D pills during the winter.
Sunny greetings from Ibiza 😉
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